Replacing the right knee

I was finally clear of the UTI. You would think that I would be sick of medical intervention and swear off doctor’s visits for a while. But now that I have had the left hip replaced and cleared the prostate and Covid issues, I was still limping in pain a bit and limiting activities because of my right knee. I wanted to enjoy retirement so I scheduled the knee replacement. After all, it was all my own fault. Yeah, I had a genetic proclivity to arthritis from my mother’s side of the family, but I had been ignoring all these other issues for years. Time to get them cleared up. 

So I scheduled the surgery for 5/5/2021.  I knew my surgeon and liked him and his office staff. I was comfortable with the hospital he uses (not the one that infected me with Covid) and it was time to ‘git ‘er done’. In a short discussion with my physical therapist before I was finished with therapy for my hip, I asked which is more challenging, recovery from a hip replacement or knee replacement. I got an evil (yet professional) grin and he said the knee recovery was by far more challenging. Great. Just wonderful.

With the doctor’s office we went through pre-op preparations, tests and instructions similar to the hip replacement preparations. We went over Covid precautions again, I was told when to begin the campaign of aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen and when to stop some of my long-term prescription medications. I was also informed that I would need to rent a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) machine for about 2-3 weeks after the surgery.  The CPM Machine was delivered 2 days prior to surgery and we were instructed on the setup and use of the machine. More on the CPM machine later.

An x-ray of a total replacement of the right knee
X-ray of Total Right Knee Replacement

On 5/5/21 my wife again dropped me off before 6 AM and the pre-op preparations were very similar to the hip operation. Since I had been through it before and I generally rely on a sense of humor in somewhat stressful situations, I actually enjoyed this pre-op session. They were all different nurses and technicians from my earlier hip surgery, but they were almost all kind, caring, capable and professional in dealing with me. I really appreciated my primary nurse for this session. She was younger, but obviously had taken charge of my care from the beginning. I did have some fun this time, primarily with the surgeon. From my experience with my hip operation I knew that everyone who has contact with the patient will ask for your name, DOB and what procedure you have stopped by for. During the pre-op session you will be asked that 5 or six times, at least. The surgeon will stop in briefly, check with the patient and review the joint to be replaced. I was to have my right knee replaced, so after my shower at home the morning of my surgery I took a ball point pen and wrote “NO” on my left kneecap kind of as a joke. All of my experiences with nurses and medical technicians were pleasant and very positive with one exception. One nurse was a bit older than the others and was obviously trained differently. Everything to her was black and white, right or wrong, with no option for patient comfort over procedures. The rules are the rules. Well my primary nurse thought my “NO” on the wrong knee was funny and creative so she pointed it out to each member of the pre-op team as they came in to the room. All enjoyed a quick chuckle as they began their particular task. Except this one nurse. She proceeded to tell me what a bad idea it was. It seems that when a surgeon chats with the patient and inspects the area for the procedure, they initial it or sign their name beside the joint to let everyone on the surgical team know what is being done and where. She informed me that when the procedure begins, someone could be confused by any writing on the incorrect joint and a mistake could ensue. I pointed out that we were fortunate that my surgeon’s initials were not NO. It was probably a mistake to be a bit flip with nurse Ratched. Her next task was to start an IV in my left arm or hand. After 3 attempts at sticking me without success, my primary nurse (probably 10 years or more younger) reminded nurse Ratched that she had other patients who needed her attention and sent her on her way. My primary nurse started the IV in my right hand with no issues and apologized for the mishap. When the anesthetist (an M.D.) came in and was shown the marked up knee he thought it was funny. It felt nice to give this team of otherwise very serious and hard working professionals something to chuckle about to start their day. The anesthetist and nurse anesthetist proceed to administer both a nerve block in my spine and anesthesia to my femoral nerve in my thigh that was located by an ultrasound. Both were without issue and without pain. A few minutes later, my surgeon came in and was shown the errant markings. While smiling broadly he said he was nearing retirement and never had a patient do that.  The rest of my experiences that morning followed the previous surgeries and I woke up in recovery. The recovery nurse took my vitals, chatted with me for a moment, decided I was ok and gave me my phone and suggested I call my wife and check in. I did, and my wife told me that she never got a call from the doctor after the surgery. The recovery room nurse heard my conversation and checked the paperwork. She said the call was made 10 minutes after the surgery and gave me the number they called. It seems that I gave the doctor my cell number rather than my wife’s… Oops. Sure enough, the call was in my phone mail. In any case, I was moved from recovery to a cubicle, ordered breakfast, met the physical therapists, walked down the hall with a walker and did the stair test again. 1 hour later they were helping me into my wife’s car and I was headed home.

The infernal contraption known as the CPM machine is in the next post

Published by barnberry

Well over aged 60 (well, OK, a lot more than that...) father of one outstanding young woman, unworthy husband of the most patient and talented woman in the world, retired small business owner, lover of all the wrong foods, political junkie and resident of NH. A conservative with a libertarian streak, and a thoughtful, impish, dedicated curmudgeon.

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